That search for the new rector was an extensive and lengthy process that ended in November, 1961, when the Reverend Harcourt Waller agreed to come to St. Paul's. Mr. Waller was on a year's sabbatical leave at St. Augustine's College, Canterbury, England, and would not actually begin work here until July, 1962. However, the calling committee and the vestry were convinced he was the right man and well worth waiting for. In his report to the congregation at the annual meeting in 1962, the senior warden said: "We have succeeded in attracting a big man because ours is an important post with a big opportunity."
If any members of the congregation hoped that under Mr. Waller's leadership St. Paul's would return to a traditional and uneventful parish style, they soon learned otherwise. In a letter to the parish written just before he left England for St. Paul's, Mr. Waller said: "There appears to be a wide gap between what we American Anglicans really are and the job of being the church in this world of ours." He believed that the Christian faith and the church should play an important and decisive role in every area of the church member's life, and he immediately directed his attention toward making that happen at St. Paul's. As his first step, within weeks of his arrival in Charlottesville he began a systematic program of calling on every member of the church.
One of Mr. Waller's first goals was to build an informed core of people who would carry on a vital ministry of lay leadership. In announcing the adult education program of 1962, Mr. Waller said, "The purpose of this 'Renewal of the Church' program will be for the changing and shaping of future plans and policies at St. Paul's through the training of a nucleus of informed, serious-minded Christian laity." A second course which began later that winter was a very intensive study of Christian doctrine to prepare people for a ministry of, ". . . speaking the essentials of The Faith in the jargon of the professional and academic community in which a person works, studies and teaches." During Lent, St. Paul's and Westminster Presbyterian Church offered another adult education opportunity called "The Lenten School of Christian Studies." In 1964 its theme of "Renewal, Reform, Reunion" attracted over two hundred people, and the 1965 course in "Christian Ethics and Contemporary Issues" was equally successful.
A second goal that Mr. Waller had for St. Paul's was to increase the number of people who participated in developing and carrying out the parish program. To do that he reorganized the parish administration into five commissions. The members of the individual commissions were responsible for Liturgy, Missions, Christian Social Relations, Christian Education, and Stewardship. In 1963, after David Cammack left, two new assistant ministers joined the St. Paul's staff. The Reverend Charles Perry had special responsibility for married students and graduate students. He also took a very active part in the adult education program that followed the 9:30 Family Service, where his excellent teaching, extensive knowledge, and infectious enthusiasm lead to a new atmosphere of intellectual excitement.
The second new assistant, the Reverend Richard Baker, was primarily responsible for the church's ministry to undergraduates and single students. He too brought a new excitement to the life of the parish. Under his leadership the Sunday night service began experimenting with folk music and dialogue sermons. The service was followed by supper and a program. One of his innovative programs, called "Sunday Night at the Movies," took advantage of a series of provocative films being shown in local theatres. After seeing the movie together, the students came back to the parish hall to discuss their reactions. Mr. Baker also provided leadership in the formation of a new "faith and work" community known as Koinonia.
The challenge to have a new and lively faith was also directed at the younger members of the congregation. Sixth and seventh graders who wanted to be in the Confirmation class had to ". . . know by heart The Lord's Prayer, The Apostles' Creed and The Ten Commandments, and the answers to all questions in the Prayer Book's Office of Instruction." High school students were encouraged to be active participants in the adult education classes and to form discussion groups of their own. The high school students also had a Sunday night youth group, and for the first time both boys and girls served as acolytes at the Sunday morning services. In the later 1960's St. Paul's sponsored Friday night dances for teenagers. They became very popular, although the lively and noisy presence of the 60's youth culture made many of the older or more conservative parishioners quite uneasy.
The congregation was also challenged to develop a new understanding of Christian stewardship. In 1961 forty percent of the pledges to St. Paul's had been for less than one dollar per week, and more than ten percent were for fifty cents or less. Mr. Waller began a very direct program to change the way people both thought about and used their money. In his weekly column in the Newsletter he said, "When thinking of Stewardship and each year's Every Member Canvass, an uncle of mine used to say to his clergy, 'In order to keep them healthy, the shepherd ought to shear the sheep annually.' I know this is the wrong way to state a theology of Christian Stewardship, but as your local 'shepherd' such a statement symbolizes the way I want to maintain a straight-forward approach to you in this important matter."
As a result of strong leadership from the clergy and the vestry, by 1964, pledges had increased by forty percent. This was accompanied by a new commitment to designate an increasingly larger portion of the St. Paul's budget for outside giving. The goal was to give at least twenty-five percent of all income to programs outside of St. Paul's.
St. Paul's was actively involved in most of the important social issues of the 1960's. For example, in 1965, even though several of the other local Episcopal Churches were not ready to do so, St. Paul's made a public statement of its own policy of non-discrimination:
"As its continuing policy, St. Paul's stands ready to minister to or serve any person who requires Christian ministry, . . . and in its employment practices will act without regard to race or color."
National politics also became a part of the church's agenda, although not without controversy. A sermon by Mr. Waller opposing our country's involvement in the Vietnam War caused a flurry of comments, both for and against. Some vestry members objected when the clergy voiced their own opinions about the 1964 national election at a meeting held in the parish hall. The vestry and clergy agreed that in the future the vestry would be given advance notice when any "political" activities were to take place so that they could attend and then be in a better position to answer any later questions or complaints.
Mr. Waller and many members of the congregation were actively involved with the Charlottesville Fair Housing Committee. This somewhat controversial organization's goal was to make available a list of houses in white neighborhoods that would be offered for sale or rent on an open occupancy basis. A notice in one of the Sunday Bulletins encouraged any members of St. Paul's with property to sell or rent to be on that list.
St. Paul's was an enthusiastic partner in the Trinity Project which was directed by the Reverend Henry Mitchell, the Rector of Trinity Church. The Trinity Project began as a six week summer program of recreation, arts and crafts, health clinics and religious instruction for poor, mostly black, children. It was very successful and was soon expanded to a year-round program which included a nursery school, after school and evening tutoring, and adult literacy classes. St. Paul's gave the program financial support and the use of the parish house facilities when they were needed. More importantly, many St. Paul's members volunteered their time and their skills in all of the programs. The close cooperation between the two parishes was evident in many ways, including an invitation to Henry Mitchell to preach at St. Paul's in April, 1968.
During the 1960's the role of the women in the church changed dramatically. In 1966 St. Paul's elected its first woman delegate to the Diocesan Council, and in 1967 the first two women were elected to serve on the vestry. It was also a change to have girls serving as acolytes. One result of these new opportunities for women in the church and in American life in general, was a decreased interest in the traditional women's Guilds and Auxiliary. In 1967 the women adopted a plan to slowly phase out their traditional organizations, to incorporate their funds into the general church budget, and to have their activities, such as church suppers, become the responsibility of the whole congregation. Although some of the Guilds continued to meet for several more years, there was no longer a separate Women of the Church organization.
All the changes that were taking place in the life and program of St. Paul's quite naturally caused considerable controversy. Some parishioners objected because St. Paul's always seemed to be on the "liberal" side of every issue. Others opposed the whole idea of church involvement in social issues at all. In certain cases people who had been members of St. Paul's for many years suddenly found it a puzzling place where they no longer felt at home. Some of them simply stopped attending church at all, while others transferred to a different parish. At the same time, many people were attracted to St. Paul's precisely because of its vitality, involvement and willingness to live out its professed beliefs. Mr. Waller addressed the issue in his Rector's letter in the Newsletter. "During the past four years life at St. Paul's has changed considerably. Perhaps the changes have been in the opposite direction from the way many of you knew and thought of the life of a parish church. . . . During such a period of transition as ours, there is no exact way of describing the right experiments. An element of faith is necessary as we move in new directions. . . . It is a time of change not one for burying the past. Inadequate forms of church life will bury themselves if we let them."
However, by far the most controversy centered on the changes taking place in the church services. Again Harcourt Waller led the way, challenging the congregation to grow in their understanding and practice of worship, re-affirming those things that made their worship of God more alive, eliminating what had become stale or obsolete. In a Lenten letter to the congregation he asked, "Are we in danger of becoming a congregation with a giant-sized building and a pea-sized spirit?". As soon as the Trial Liturgy was approved it was used, frequently at the 9:30 service and occasionally at the 11:00 service, where the congregation tended to be more conservative and less enthusiastic about change.
But changes in the liturgy did not stir up people nearly as much as did alterations in the interior arrangement of the church. Although the Liturgical Committee tried to keep the congregation informed and prepared for changes, some members felt that they never knew what re-arrangement of furniture to expect when they walked into church on Sunday morning. Basically there were three plans. The first was the traditional arrangement of the church with all the pews facing the unobstructed high altar. The second plan placed a platform and table at the foot of the chancel steps with three rows of pews turned to face it from the sides. The third plan actually blocked the altar off from view with a temporary partition, moved the platform and table to the church's west wall and turned all the pews to face that way. A survey done by the Liturgical Committee showed that the third plan had very little support, the second was favorably received by a majority of the 9:30 congregation, and the traditional lay-out was the preference of the 11:00 service. The survey also revealed that many people felt St. Paul's had finally gone too far. In a letter to the vestry, one life-long member wrote "We - and here I am speaking for myself and those of us who are left who built this church - constructed and furnished this bulding in a manner that had satisfied nearly all of our Episcopal brethren since the Anglican Church had been brought to this country. . . . Of course we have always been aware that the primitive church had a more informal arrangement of the church interior and a more intimate liturgy, but we preferred to be Episcopalians rather than Baptists. What was good for the Visigoths was not necessarily good for us. Incidentally, if informality and intimacy are prime aims of the New Liturgy, why not spare the church and have the new altar in the Parish Hall and have the congregation sit on the floor?"
In 1969, after seven active, innovative years, Harcourt Waller resigned to become rector of Christ Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. The St. Paul's he left was radically different from the congregation he had come to in 1961. Several older, life-long members had stopped attending or had left to join another parish. At the same time, other members had become actively involved in the life of the congregation, many for the first time, and new people had been attracted to St. Paul's, seeing there an opportunity to develop a faith that was a vital part of everything else going on in their lives. St. Paul's had become an active congregation, involved in all the crucial social issues of the time, during a period of rapid and sometimes disruptive change. Its own traditional forms of worship had been altered by that pattern of change. The changes and the new vitality also affected parish finances. During Mr. Waller's first three years at St. Paul's there was a steady increase in parish income as people responded to the stewardship education program. However, for the next several years the pledges to the church declined as angry or unhappy parishioners withdrew their financial support. Even though many other people were making an increasingly larger pledge each year, by 1969 St. Paul's had to adopt a deficit budget.
While lay people had accepted unprecedented opportunities for leadership, the rapid pace and the wide variety of changes were primarily attributable to Harcourt Waller. In a letter accepting his resignation, the vestry said, "In the seven years of his ministry with us, Harcourt Waller has exercised his spiritual and personal leadership by drawing us toward new levels of Christian commitment, by re-examining the basis of liturgical expression and by strengthening our concept of the ministry of Christ's church. . . . challenging us to move forward toward our potential as a force for spiritual regeneration and social change. . . ."
Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 13:23